March 25, 2022 | Rob’s Rundown
Senator Portman was back in Washington this week where, on Monday, he spoke on the Senate floor about the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Portman noted that Ukraine can win this war, but needs the continued help of the United States and NATO allies. Portman has been pushing for weeks for sanctions and condemned the administration’s lack of urgency. On Wednesday, he joined MSNBC’s Morning Joe and called for NATO counties to place an embargo on Russian imports of oil and gas in order to cut off funding for Russia’s military, and also joined his Senate colleagues at a press conference to echo this message.
On FOX News’ America Reports on Thursday he discussed President Biden’s address in Poland, and the possibility of nuclear and chemical attacks from Russia. Also on Thursday, Portman published a new report entitled America’s Data Held Hostage: Case Studies in Ransomware Attacks on American Companies as Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The report details how all organizations, no matter the size or financial resources, can fall victim to sophisticated cyber adversaries, and also provides background information on Russian cyber aggression, including attacks against Ukraine. Finally, on Friday Senator Portman spoke at Utica Shale about the need for America’s energy independence, and addressed Ashland University where he was a guest on their students’ podcast.
For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:
Monday, March 21, 2022
On Senate Floor, Portman Calls on Administration to Take Five Actions to Help Ukraine Win the War Against Russia
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) spoke on the Senate floor about how the United States and our allies can help Ukraine win the war against Russia. Portman recounted his time leading a bipartisan CODEL to Ukraine, commended the administration on actions thus far, and recommended five actions the administration should take to help Ukraine win. The world has seen maternity wards, humanitarian pathways, and shelters destroyed by indiscriminate Russian strikes – many of these actions constitute war crimes. This is the sixth consecutive week Senator Portman spoke on the Senate Floor on this issue.
Portman was a strong advocate for pre-invasion sanctions, and is now pushing for bipartisan sanctions on trade, banking, energy, and tax, in addition to more lethal weaponry.
As Co-Chair of the bipartisan Senate Ukraine Caucus Portman stands in strong solidarity with Ukraine, and commends the bravery of President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people.
Tuesday, March 22, 2022
Portman, Hirono Introduce Resolution Designating April 2022 as National Native Plant Month
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) introduced a bipartisan resolution designating April 2022 as “National Native Plant Month” and recognizing the importance of native plants to environmental conservation and restoration, as well as in supporting a diversity of wildlife.
“I am proud to introduce this bipartisan resolution designating April 2022 as National Native Plant Month,” said Portman. “From stabilizing soil and filtering air and water to providing shelter and food for wildlife, native plants play an indispensable role in supporting resilient ecosystems as well as in our everyday lives. This bipartisan resolution highlights the importance of native plants and celebrates our rich ecological heritage here in Ohio and across the nation.”
“Native plants are an important piece of Hawaii’s history, culture, and environment. As home to 44 percent of our country’s threatened and endangered plant species, in Hawaii, we understand the importance of protecting and preserving our native biodiversity. I’m pleased to introduce this bipartisan resolution to recognize April as National Native Plant Month and encourage all Americans to protect and incorporate native plants in their own communities,” said Hirono.
This resolution is gaining widespread support across Ohio and the country. Supporters include: Ohio Native Plant Month, Arizona Native Plant Society, Aullwood Audubon, Cincinnati Nature Center, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Colorado Native Plant Society, Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District, Davey Resource Group, Inc, Dawes Arboretum, Denver Botanic Gardens, Florida Native Plant Society, The Garden Club of America, Great Healthy Yard Project, Keep America Beautiful, Klyn Nurseries, Inc., Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership, Lani-Kailua Branch of the Outdoor Circle, Longwood Gardens, Medina County Park District, National Audubon Society, National Parks Conservation Association, National Wildlife Federation, Native Plant Society of Northeastern Ohio, Native Plant Society of Oregon, Nature Conservancy, Nature Scoop, New York Botanical Garden, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Ohio Environmental Council, Pollinator Partnership, Great Lakes Region, Summit Soil and Water Conservation District, University of Delaware, Utah Native Plant Society, Virginia Native Plant Society, Weed Wrangle®, Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Wild Ones: Native Plants, Audubon Society of Ohio, Civic Garden Center, California Native Plant Society, Keep Ohio Beautiful, Montana Native Plant Society, Native Plant Society of New Jersey, The Wilderness Center, Washington Native Plant Society, Save Ohio Bees, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, Coventry Township (Summit County, OH).
You can see some of their statements here. Text of the Senate resolution can be found here.
Portman, Finance Committee Republicans Ask Treasury Secretary Yellen for Update on Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), along with all other Finance Committee Republicans, sent a letter requesting U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen provide an update on the status of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds reports, which by law are to be issued annually by April 1.
The reports have rarely been distributed on time in recent years, with the 2021 report not delivered until August 31. While the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has made recommendations to the Treasury Department on process improvements in recent years, the recommendations have not been fully incorporated into the process for developing the trust fund reports. As Managing Trustee of the trust funds, it is the responsibility of the Treasury Secretary to provide these reports to Congress in a timely manner, as required by law, or provide Congress and the American people with explanations for late work.
“The 2021 trustees report was released 152 days late, with little-to-no information provided to the public and to Congress explaining the reasons for, and the expected duration of, the delay,” wrote the senators.
“Before Congress debates any further legislation that impacts either the Medicare or Social Security programs, it is imperative that policymakers have accurate and timely information regarding the financial operations of these critical safety-net programs,” the senators continued.
“For Congress and the public to provide effective oversight of the Social Security and Medicare programs and trust funds, your role as Managing Trustee of the boards of trustees for Social Security and Medicare requires that you provide timely information as required by the law,” the senators concluded.
Read the full letter here.
Portman, Duckworth Applaud Senate Committee Passage of Bipartisan Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) to strengthen the nation’s criminal justice system passed the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation (CST) Committee today by voice vote and will now be considered by the full Senate. The Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act, as amended, would help families keep in touch with their incarcerated family members, which studies have shown can help reduce recidivism rates and thereby save taxpayer dollars. The version of the bill that CST favorably reported was supported by the National Sheriffs’ Association and a coalition of organizations. It would amend current law to clarify that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is authorized to regulate intrastate phone rates and charges in correctional facilities to ensure they are just and reasonable, and amend the definition of advanced communications services to make sure the updated statute is technology-neutral.
“Outrageously high prison phone call rates create an often insurmountable barrier between those in prison and their families,” said Portman. “While Ohio has done a good job of tackling this problem so far, this bill fills a void by helping to solve this problem nationwide, strengthening families and reducing recidivism. I am pleased that this important legislation has passed favorably out of the committee and I look forward to it being passed by the full Senate.”
“No family member should ever have to choose between staying in touch with an incarcerated loved one and paying the bills,” said Duckworth. “That’s one reason why I’m glad that bipartisan legislation—named after the late Mrs. Martha Wright-Reed, a grandmother who was forced to make difficult choices between extending a weekly lifeline to her incarcerated grandson and buying her much-needed heart medicine—I introduced with Senator Portman advanced out of Committee today with no opposition. We must do all that we can to ensure that phone rates in correctional facilities are just and reasonable so family members can afford to stay in touch with incarcerated loved ones, improving the chances that rehabilitated offenders will be able to become productive members of society upon their release.”
This bipartisan legislation is named after Martha Wright-Reed, who advocated for more affordable phone rates for more than 20 years. After Martha’s grandson became incarcerated and she discovered how expensive it was to keep in contact with him, she sued the Corrections Corporation of American for their exorbitantly high phone call rates. The FCC first announced it would cap interstate prison phone call rates in 2013 after years of hard work by Martha Wright-Reed and other advocates.
There is bipartisan consensus that intrastate rates and charges in correctional facilities are unjust and unreasonable. FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel described the rates that families of incarcerated people are forced to pay as “unconscionable” and noted that the price for individual calls in correctional facilities “…can be as much as many of us pay for unlimited monthly plans.” Former FCC Chair Ajit Pai also criticized the status quo when leading the FCC, noting that intrastate providers “…are charging egregiously high intrastate rates across the country,” and observing that incarcerated people and their families are “…particularly vulnerable to these exorbitant intrastate rates.” Similar to current FCC Chair Rosenworcel, former FCC Chair Pai also testified to CST that he would welcome the legal authority to regulate intrastate rates and charges in correctional facilities to ensure they are just and reasonable.
Organizations from across the political spectrum supported the amended version of the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act that CST favorably reported, including: The National Sheriffs’ Association, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), Color Of Change, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Free Press Action, International CURE, Japanese American Citizens League, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients, National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), New America’s Open Technology Institute Prison Policy Initiative, Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, Public Knowledge, Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TDI), United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry, Voqal, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (WLC) and Worth Rises.
More information on the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act is available here.
Wednesday, March 23, 2022
On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Portman Calls for More Support for Ukraine and a Red Line on Use of Chemical Weapons
Rob Portman (R-OH) joined MSNBC’s Morning Joe and commended the American people and the United States’ allies for their support of Ukraine and also called on the Biden Administration to do more to help Ukraine win the war. Specifically, Portman called for more lethal aid to Ukraine as well as an NATO counties to place an embargo on Russian imports of oil and gas in order to cut off funding for Russia’s military. Portman also discussed the possible use of chemical weapons by Vladimir Putin and said doing so would cross a “red line.”
A video can be found here.
At Press Conference, Portman Calls For NATO Countries to Ban Russian Oil and Gas, U.S. to Backfill Their Energy Needs
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) joined his fellow Republicans in discussing the actions taken by the Biden administration that have led to increasing gas prices and rising inflation across the country. While the administration blames Russia for rising gas prices, Portman pointed out 68 percent of the rise in the cost of oil and gas came before the invasion and can be attributed to the administration’s actions that have stifled domestic energy production.
Portman also discussed the need for NATO countries to end their imports of Russian oil and gas to further cripple Russia’s war machine. Currently, Russia’s war against Ukraine is being primarily funded by energy revenues. While the U.S. has banned the import of Russian oil, gas, and coal, it is not enough. Portman encouraged President Biden to talk with his NATO colleagues to convince them to embargo the Russian energy as well. He highlighted that U.S. producers can play a key role in not only supporting our domestic energy security, but also supporting our allies overseas transition away from their reliance on Russian energy.
A video can be found here.
Portman Applauds Announcement of Almost $3 Billion in Grants for Roads, Bridges, Ports, Rail & Other Transportation Projects
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) applauded the U.S. Department of Transportation’s announcement that $2.85 billion in competitive grant funds has been made available to support multimodal projects across the country, which can help improve the resiliency of our freight networks.
“Thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure law, Ohio and our localities will have access to brand new and higher levels of existing funding opportunities for multimodal projects in our communities,” said Portman. “I am pleased that the Department of Transportation has streamlined the application process for applicants through this ‘common app’ approach and look forward to supporting Ohio applicants in obtaining these funds.”
The National Infrastructure Project Assistance Program (AKA “Mega”) is a brand new competitive grant program that will help fund for multi-modal, multi-jurisdictional projects that have national or regional significance. Eligible projects include highway, bridge, fright, port, rail, and transit with national or regional significance with total costs greater than $500 million. The Department of Transportation will award 50 percent of the $1 billion available for this fiscal year to projects with $500 million or greater in total project costs and 50 percent to those projects between $100 million and $500 million in total project costs.
The Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program provides funding for highway, freight, and multimodal projects. Prior to the bipartisan infrastructure law, this grant program typically received $1 billion in annual funding. Now, this program will see $1.55 billion this year, with a total of $8 billion for this program over the next five years. This means more projects across Ohio and the nation will have the opportunity to receive this critical assistance.
The brand new Rural Surface Transportation Program will provide up to $300 million in grant awards for Fiscal Year 2022 to support projects that improve and expand transportation infrastructure in rural areas. Eligible projects include highway, bridge and tunnel projects that improve freight movement, safety, and increase access to agricultural, commercial, energy, or transportation facilities to boost economic growth in rural areas. In total, this competitive grant program will see $2 billion in funding over the next five years.
To streamline the application process for applications, the Department of Transportation has released a combined notice of funding opportunity for the above grant programs. The deadline for applications is May 23, 2022.
Thursday, March 24, 2022
New Portman Report Demonstrates Threat Ransomware Presents to the United States
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), the Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, published a new report entitled America’s Data Held Hostage: Case Studies in Ransomware Attacks on American Companies. The report documents the experiences of three victims targeted by the REvil ransomware gang and shows how difficult it is for all organizations to account for all vulnerabilities and defend against sophisticated cyber adversaries. It also demonstrates the need for enhanced visibility into cyberattacks against the United States to effectively respond and warn potential victims. In addition, the report has background information on Russian cyber aggression, including attacks against Ukraine.
The entities profiled in the report are from different business sectors and vary significantly in size, revenue, and IT resources. Despite these differences, all three fell victim to REvil. This underscores the broad threat ransomware presents and the proactive steps all organizations must take to implement cyber best practices.
“Ransomware attacks, like the one on Colonial Pipeline or JBS Foods, are a painful reminder that these incidents have real-world consequences,” said Senator Portman. “This report shows that all organizations, no matter the size or financial resources, can fall victim to sophisticated cyber adversaries. It also shows how organizations can take proactive steps to secure their networks against the most damaging impacts of ransomware attacks. The Biden administration should work quickly to implement my recently enacted bipartisan Cyber Incident Reporting Act. This law will help prevent future cyberattacks by facilitating increased information sharing and enhance the federal government’s cyber defense and investigative capabilities.”
The report’s key findings include:
- All organizations, regardless of size and sophistication, are susceptible to ransomware attacks.
- Ransomware gangs often use phishing attacks to gain initial access to victim networks.
- In past ransomware attacks, multifactor authentication, zero trust principles, and network segmentation helped prevent attackers from gaining access to more sensitive data in a victim’s networks.
- Maintaining offline backups and a well-defined incident response plan helped victims resume critical operations quickly without paying a ransom, when attackers did get in.
- The laws and regulations at the time discouraged victims from sharing information with other potential victims that could prevent future ransomware attacks.
- In two cases reviewed in the report, the Federal Bureau of Investigation prioritized its investigative and prosecutorial efforts to disrupt attacker operations over victims’ need to protect data and mitigate damage.
- Until recently, there was no Federal agency charged with collecting and tracking reports of cyber incidents to prevent and mitigate future attacks.
- REvil monetized access to victim networks and sold that access to other REvil affiliates.
- Before encrypting victim organization networks, REvil used double extortion methods to first steal sensitive data from victims and then publish that data on REvil’s public blog.
- REvil harassed victim company employees via email and telephone in an attempt to coerce ransom payments.
The report makes the following recommendations:
- CISA should immediately share all incident reports received under the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act with the FBI. The FBI and CISA should also strengthen their partnership to assist ransomware victims. Close coordination between these two entities will best position the FBI to investigate those responsible for ransomware attacks while also allowing CISA to provide the technical assistance victims need to recover.
- FBI should ensure it considers ransomware victim priorities like protecting data and mitigating damage. This will preserve FBI’s constructive working relationship with the private sector and provide it with the information necessary to hold attackers accountable.
- CISA and the National Cyber Director should work quickly with other appropriate agencies like FBI to implement recently enacted legislation requiring critical infrastructure owners and operators to report cyber incidents and ransomware payments to CISA. This legislation will enhance the Federal Government’s ability to combat cyberattacks, mount a coordinated defense, hold perpetrators accountable, and prevent and mitigate future attacks through the sharing of timely and actionable threat information.
- Increase costs for attackers by eliminating low-hanging fruit. Organizations can increase the difficulty for ransomware criminals by patching vulnerabilities, implementing multi-factor authentication, maintaining accurate device and software inventories, and instituting complex password requirements. Adhering to these cyber best practices will increase the likelihood that attackers move on to less prepared targets.
- Organizations should implement a defensive posture that assumes the organization has been breached. Sophisticated cyber adversaries with near-unlimited resources can compromise most networks if given enough time. Employing zero-trust networking (continuous authentication and monitoring) with need-to-know access privileges will give organizations critical time to detect attackers and cut off their access before they exfiltrate or encrypt sensitive data. Flat networks and enterprise-wide shared drives give users more access than they need, allowing hackers to do more damage if they compromise one of those accounts.
- Have a cyber incident response plan in place before an attack occurs. When a cyber incident inevitably takes place, organizations should know in advance who needs to be notified and when. Incident response plans should detail explicit processes for notifying the government and retaining an incident response provider. Entities should also determine which systems are most critical to their operations and how long those systems can be offline before business operations suffer significant impacts. For critical infrastructure owners and operators, organizations should go a step further to determine how long systems can be offline before there are regional or national effects.
- Maintain offline backups and encrypt sensitive data when stored and in transit. These two solutions can help mitigate the otherwise debilitating impact of ransomware attacks. With offline backups, organizations can reconstitute impacted systems without having to pay a ransom for the decryption key. Encrypting sensitive data addresses the second half of double extortion attacks because the data is unreadable. Together, offline backups and encryption of sensitive data are the most effective ways to mitigate the damage and cost associated with a successful ransomware attack.
Portman, Duckworth Applaud Senate Passage of Bipartisan Bill to Protect Infants from Deadly “Crib Bumpers”
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) to protect infant lives by banning the sale of padded crib bumpers — which have been proven to pose an unnecessary, deadly risk to sleeping infants — passed the Senate and is now headed to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration. The Safe Cribs Act would also make it unlawful nationwide to manufacture and import crib bumpers, which remain widely sold by retailers despite current recommendations advising parents to keep cribs bare to prevent sudden infant death syndrome. The senators’ legislation would direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to enforce a ban nationwide.
“The use of padded crib bumpers poses an unnecessary threat to the health and safety of infants everywhere, there is no reason the sale of these items should continue,” said Portman. “I applaud the Senate for passing this legislation and I look forward to continuing to work with Senators Duckworth and Blumenthal so that this act may become law, protecting infants from the unnecessary and unacceptable risk of these products.”
“The fact that these deadly products can still be found on shelves across the country is extremely confusing to new parents who don’t believe stores would be selling them if they were truly dangerous to babies,” said Duckworth. “We should be doing everything we can to help new parents and prevent needless deaths like these, which is why I’m glad this bipartisan bill to end the sale of deadly padded crib bumpers passed out of the Senate. I’ll keep working with Senators Portman and Blumenthal to get this legislation to President Biden’s desk.”
The legislation has been endorsed by American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Kids in Danger, Consumer Federation of American and Breathable Baby. A 2020 survey conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that many parents falsely believe crib bumpers are safe, mistakenly assume that crib bumpers would have been removed from the market if unsafe and by nearly a five to one margin, expressed support for the view that if crib bumpers were linked to infant deaths, these products should not be sold.
Senator Portman has long been a pro-life advocate and staunch supporter of efforts to reduce infant mortality. This legislation goes hand and hand with those efforts, ensuring that babies are protected from the risk of suffocation and death posed by padded crib bumpers.
Ohio banned the sale of these products in 2017, with minor exceptions – as did Maryland in 2013. In 2011, the City of Chicago became the first city to ban the sale of crib bumpers.
On Fox News’ America’s Report, Portman Calls for More Sanctions on Russian Energy and a Red Line on Use of Chemical Weapons
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) joined Fox News’ America Reports with John Roberts and Sandra Smith to discuss the potential use of chemical weaponry by Vladimir Putin against Ukraine and what the appropriate response would be by the United States and NATO. Portman also called for a more concrete “red line” and a clear signal that there would be a strong response if Russia used chemical weapons against Ukraine. He also called for comprehensive embargo by all nations on Russian imports of oil and gas in order to cut off funding for Russia’s military which will help Ukraine win the war.
A video can be found here.
Friday, March 25, 2022
In Canton, Portman Provides Remarks at the Utica Green Conference
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) attended the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Utica Green Conference, where he discussed the importance of Ohio’s oil and natural gas sector, especially in light of the ongoing situation in Ukraine.
Portman discussed the recently announced news that the Biden administration will support expanding liquid natural gas exports to help Europe wean off of dependency on Russian oil and stressed the importance of the administration supporting infrastructure to help bring Ohio natural gas to market.
He also highlighted how the bipartisan infrastructure law, which he was lead Republican negotiator on, will help support our energy future through the development of technologies like carbon capture and hydrogen.
“It was great to be with the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce today to talk about the vital role Ohio natural gas plays in reducing Ohio’s emissions, supporting good jobs, and helping with our nation’s energy security and national security,” said Portman.
Following his remarks, Senator Portman had the chance to tour the Pro Football Hall of Fame with staff and Hall President & CEO Jim Porter and heard an update on their expansions for Hall of Fame Village.